Lincoln Harris, Crescent Communities Team Up in Charlotte

River District, a 1,300-acre master-planned community along the Catawba River, will focus on its natural surroundings.

Charlotte, N.C.—The vision for River District, a 1,300-acre master-planned community to be developed by Lincoln Harris and Crescent Communities in Charlotte, N.C, just became visual. Architecture and urban design firm Cooper Robertson recently secured approval of its master plan for the nature-focused waterfront project.

River District

River District Site

The centerpiece of River District won’t be an entertainment venue or a marketplace; it will be the property’s natural surroundings. Roughly 40 percent of the sprawling site, located along the Catawba River and just west of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, will be designated for greenways, parks, trails and open space. Essentially, Cooper Robertson’s master plan calls for River District to sprout up around what already exists.

“Access to the waterways and forest surroundings across walking bridges and through hiking trails and other access points will help create the desirable live-work-play community with varied outdoor uses envisioned by the development team,” John Kirk, partner with Cooper Robertson, said in a prepared statement.

Live-work-play, indeed. River District could ultimately feature as much as 8 million square feet of office space; 500,000 square feet of retail space; 5,000 single- and multi-family residential units, including workforce/affordable and senior housing; and 1,000 hotel rooms. It doesn’t seem to be a case of ‘If you build it, they will come,’ as strong demand already exists for each segment of River District’s offerings.

River District Regional Map

River District Regional Map

Per research by commercial real estate investment services firm Marcus & Millichap, the call for office square-footage grew louder in 2016 in Charlotte as companies requiring traditional office space–particularly the financial sector–experienced strong growth, resulting in a year-over-year decline of 130 basis points in the vacancy rate to 8.2 percent at mid-year. In the retail sector, increased disposable income from newly-formed households boosted demand, leading to an estimated absorption of 2 million square feet in 2016, the highest amount in nearly 10 years. Buoyed by an expanding population and new job creation, the multifamily vacancy rate was just 3.5 percent in the third quarter, marking the lowest rate in a decade. And at mid-year, hotel occupancy in Charlotte jumped to 73.4 percent, outshining the Carolinas, which recorded an average occupancy rate of 64 percent. The enviable figure was due in no small part to a solid volume of business and leisure travelers.

River District Development and Design Team

River District development & design team: Cooper Robertson, Crescent Communities and LandDesign

Cooper Robertson’s master plan, conceived with the assistance of landscape architecture firm LandDesign Inc., also allows for two Charlotte Mecklenburg School sites.

River District will be constructed over a 20- to 30-year period. “Not only will River District be a vibrant and diverse community, it also adds a magnetic riverfront and access to nature that help foster economic vitality, diverse residential opportunities, and a thriving new town center,” Kirk added.

As large as the River District project is, it is only one part of a grander plan for Charlotte. Local officials endeavor to brand the city as a top technology cluster and leading hub for other industries. The road is literally being paved to accommodate additional growth; a $16.2 million bond referendum for new roads near the airport was recently greenlighted. Additionally, the airport will undergo expansion to accommodate a larger number of direct international flights.

Images courtesy of Cresecent Communities and Cooper Robertson